ACOM Book Club for June 2023

TademThe ACOM Book Club met on Thursday, June 15. This month's meeting notes are courtesy of Andrea.
Margaret and Jim, Tom, Lowell and Andrea met at Mim's last evening to discuss Tadem: My Father's Village, by Robert Kaloosdian.
Amazingly, Margaret and Tom are "Tademtsis" as they both have ancestors from Tadem. Tadem is a small village south of Harput that, prior to the Genocide, had 1,000 to 2,000 Armenians and a handful of Turks (including a notoriously untrustworthy, at times cruel, authority figure or two).

The author, whose father Boghos was a youth when the Genocide broke out, has done a remarkable job tracing the oral histories of those who survived as well as those who perished, detailing what they went through and what eventually happened to them. It is as detailed an oral historical account as I've ever read. We were impressed by the Tademtsis who immigrated to the U.S. prior to the Genocide and formed the Tadem Education Association, pooling their meager earnings to send money back to Tadem to build and fund a school. We remarked at the good Turks who protected and helped Armenians escape during the Genocide, as well as the people Boghos and his friend Hovannes met who supported them along the route of their long railroad trip across Russia (as the Bolshevik revolution was underway) on their way to the United States. As well, there was the Armenian benefactress who supported them in Yokohama, Japan and helped them get passage by ship to Seattle, and the Armenian benefactress who assisted them in Seattle, from where Boghos and Hovannes went their separate ways. Boghos joined his brother Garabed in Watertown, MA and together they established a candy business. A concentration of Tademtsis settled in Watertown and formed an Armenian (ARF) social club in a small, old building where, as author Kaloosdian words, "when they stepped inside, they left the United States behind."
Thanks to Margaret and Jim, who met the author in Watertown at his office and bought three copies of this book, Tom and I were able to borrow and read it. (I had looked for it online and found one hardcover copy for $287. I believe it never came out in softcover.) Margaret said one whole wall in Kaloosdian's office was covered with shelves of file folders containing his research on Tadem and the Armenians who once lived there. Tom brought along a National Geographic magazine dated October, 1915, which had a story illustrated with b&w photos depicting the lives of Armenians in Western Armenia (the story went to press before the Genocide's onset). He also showed us his fascinating extensive family tree as well as copies of old Pioneer Press and Mpls Tribune articles relating to the Genocide and his family history. Lowell brought a map he copied from an engineering magazine showing where the current Turkish government is building dams in historic Western Armenia. Andrea noted that the candidate who opposed Erdogan in Turkey's recent election, Kemal Dilicdaroglu, is from Dersim, the mountainous area occupied by Alevi Kurds who, during the Genocide, were sympathetic and helpful to the fleeing Tademtsi Armenians. (Kilicdaroglu got almost 48% of the popular vote in the run-off election, a hopeful sign of changing times.)
The book club will not meet in July and August. Our next meeting will be in September when we will discuss the book "The Island of Missing Trees" by Elif Shafak. It is a story of star-crossed lovers, one Turk and one Greek, on Cyprus during the civil war in the 1970s. Just to make it more interesting, part of the book is narrated by a tree. Read the book and join us in September.

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